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The Powers Of The States

From the beginning of America, formed as a representative republic, states rights has always been at the forefront of the discussion. The founders of our country intentionally created a weak federal government because they feared what an all-powerful central authority would be capable of. The powers that were not granted specifically to the federal government were left to the states, or to the people. The Tenth Amendment sets that in stone.

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The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

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Taken from Wikipedia, this is what James Madison said when he introduced the Tenth Amendment in Congress.

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I find, from looking into the amendments proposed by the State conventions, that several are particularly anxious that it should be declared in the Constitution, that the powers not therein delegated should be reserved to the several States. Perhaps words which may define this more precisely than the whole of the instrument now does, may be considered as superfluous. I admit they may be deemed unnecessary: but there can be no harm in making such a declaration, if gentlemen will allow that the fact is as stated. I am sure I understand it so, and do therefore propose it.

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States RightsClearly, there was concern that the federal government would grow beyond its intended design. Looking back at Madison’s statement, it almost sounds prophetic. The men who created our government had a deeply ingrained fear of a central government. Given their experiences with their former British masters, they had every right to hold that fear, and they took steps to limit the federal government of the United States.

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Fast forward to modern America and you can barely recognize the power emanating from Washington  for the limited government it is supposed to be. We could list an entire litany of federal departments that should not exist, yet there they are in, in all their glory, and they are in firm control of most of what happens in America. They dictate to the states and they states ask how far they need to jump. I contend that is not the way our country was designed to be governed. The states were supposed to reign supreme, with the federal government having a very limited role. Those roles are now reversed and it could never be more clearly defined than what is taking place in America as Obamacare is implemented, piece by piece.

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Those of us who are of the conservative mindset were shaken to our core when the Supreme Court, namely Chief Justice John Roberts, decided to rule in favor of the health care mandate that is the heart of the legislation. He had to redefine it as a tax to make that ruling, but that didn’t seem to bother him. An even greater shaking occurred on November 6, when in spite of all the polls and the momentum that was swinging in Mitt Romney’s favor, he lost his bid to unseat President Obama. Between those two events, 2012 has not been a good year for conservatives. Or has it?

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Don’t get me wrong, I completely disagree with the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare. I certainly did not think President Obama would win a second term, but hope may not be totally lost. I believe the key to reshaping America to the country it used to be lies in the states. Think about it for a moment. Washington, D.C. seems far removed from most places in our country. Even if you live in Virginia, or some other state in the same region as Washington, the federal government seems out of reach. Even if a good man or woman is elected to Congress, many times they are co-opted by the powers that be in Washington and unless they play ball with the right people, they have little power to affect change.

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It’s much different on the state level. Republicans now have control of a majority of state governments. They solidified that control on November 6. So while nothing really changed in Washington, with the power split remaining virtually the same, the Republicans are in firm control of 27 state legislatures and hold 29 governorships. The Republicans in those state legislatures and governor offices can and should control what goes on in their states. In my opinion, that is the key to stopping and turning back the onslaught of liberalism that is rampantly sweeping our nation.

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In my home state of Oklahoma, registered Democrats actually outnumber registered Republicans, yet Republicans have control of our legislature and a Republican holds the governorship. When Obamacare was passed and it became common knowledge that the federal government was going to ask/require the states to set up insurance exchanges as part of the program, Oklahoma said they wanted no part of it. Now that the Roberts’ ruling on Obamacare made it optional to expand Medicaid, Governor Mary Fallin has no thanks to that as well. By my count, that makes 26 states who have informed the federal government they will have no part of the insurance exchange or the Medicaid expansion. The states have the power to do that and they are exercising that power.

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Many things are handed down by the federal government as mandates, many of them unfunded. Many of the programs set up by the federal government are passed to the states for implementation, with federal dollars attached. The federal government uses those federal dollars as its big stick, forcing the states into compliance with the fear of losing money from Washington. Imagine, if you will, how much lower the federal debt and deficit would be, if the original framework was being followed. The states would not be subservient to the federal government and thus, would not be sending its money to Washington, to then be handed back with mandates attached. The big stick the federal government now wields would be cut off and rendered impotent. I believe it is past time for the states to exert themselves and take back the powers that were granted to them by the United States Constitution.

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Going one step further, the relationship between the states, which were thought of as sovereign entities, and the federal government, was supposed to be a partnership. Some issues are clearly local and state issues and others are federal issues. If you read the Enumerated Powers, they all deal with federal issues. Local and state issues are not mentioned and thus, are left to the states to deal with. In our current generation, personal liberty and freedom would be much greater and under much less of a threat, if the partnership between the federal government and the states was working as it was designed. What we have instead is a federal government that tries to insert itself into every facet of our lives. That’s one reason I firmly believe the federal government has no rightful place in our education system, since it is clearly a local and state issue. The Department of Education budget amounted to $69.9 billion in 2011 and the Obama administration requested $77.4 billion in 2012. This is money being spent by the federal government on an issue that is not in their jurisdiction and it is only one department of the federal government. How many more examples could we list?

Keep in mind, the advance of liberalism did not happen overnight. It has taken place for decades, possibly even a generation. Pushing back that advance and allowing the states to return to their rightful place of power in our country will not happen overnight, but it is a necessary thing, if America is to survive with any resemblance of its former self. The original framework of our country has to be returned to and followed. There is no better place to start than at the local level. Little by little, we can gain control of more state legislatures. Little by little, the powers of the states can be returned to their rightful owners. Until that happens, we can not hope to defeat the liberalism that is destroying our country.

About LD Jackson

LD Jackson has written 2053 posts in this blog.

Founder and author of the political and news commentary blog Political Realities. I have always loved to write, but never have I felt my writing was more important than in this present day. If I have changed one mind or impressed one American about the direction our country is headed, then I will consider my endeavors a success. I take the tag line on this blog very seriously. Above all else, in search of the truth.

  • Great post Larry! You are right about the states pushing back against the feds, that is the only hope we have of slowing down the federal government and you hit on the biggest reason why many states do not. The feds hold that money over the states heads and basically bribe them to go along by using money which belongs to us in the first place to coerce them into neglecting the 10th amendment.

    • If the states do not take a stand and begin working to put the relationship of our government back into the proper alignment, we can not hope to pull our country back from the brink. That may sound dire, but I believe it is necessary.

      • Perhaps… I know this is a radical idea, but perhaps a conservative state could just say “no” to the federal government. Stop sending taxes up to the feds. Keep it in the state (as it should be!) and don’t worry about the feds not funding you… you’re not funding them!

        Yes, there are many ways that would blow up in everyone’s faces. Yes, that would be complex and likely a bad idea.

        But are there any good ideas left?

        (note: I’m trying to spur conversation, and this is one idea I have. I’m not sold on this proposition)

  • I love the idea of states pushing back against the Feds. Unfortunately the Civil War settled once and for all the power of the Federal government over the states. States lost the rights once and for all when the 17th amendment was passed, allowing for the direct election of Senators. At this point states rights is largely a pretend idea with very little backing it by way of law.

    • Actually, I believe it is more than a pretend idea with no teeth. Yes, the Civil War put to rest that the states were free to secede from the Union, but that doesn’t mean they are without ways to exercise the rights and the power granted to them by the Constitution. Turning down the insurance exchange and Medicaid expansion is a good place to start.

      • In 2012 states rights have been eroded to essentially nothing. It’s a mere technicality at this point. I support rejecting the exchanges but the fact is that the Feds will eventually just come in and create them on their own and/or withhold Federal funding for other programs which the Feds do on a regular basis to get the states to do what they want. Couple that with the Courts consistently ruling in favor of the Feds on this issue and it’s clear to me the 10th amendment holds no power for states.

  • I think we’re over the dam. Precedent has been set, and clawing back rights in this Brave New World will be extremely difficult. Progressive statists of all parties have no regard for musty old documents like the constitution.

    • I sincerely hope you are wrong and I know you do as well. We have to try.

  • I would ask this question. Why is it that people go to the polls and vote conservative on the state and local level but on that same ballot vote for a tax and spend happy liberal like Obama? That simply boggles my mind.

    • That’s something I have never understood.

  • Dragonconservative

    Well, let’s take a look at the states. There are definitely more Republican governors than Democrat governors. It’s from that pool, and a select few from Congress, that the Republicans have to draw on for presidential candidates.

    • I wouldn’t mind seeing Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin running for President, but we also need her here at home. We have some good candidates, but I worry that the Republican establishment will do their best to dictate which candidate gets the nod. I’m not so sure that is a good thing.

      • Dragonconservative

        I was thinking more like Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, or Bobby Jindal. But look who they’ll be running against. The greatest of the liberal advocates, drum role please…SANDRA FLUKE.

        Levity aside, the Republicans need to make sure that they send a high-profile guy in the field. Someone who can do what Romney couldn’t. Romney’s greatest failure was that he allowed himself to be painted as a ruthless, rich Wall Streeter. He needed to do more TV interviews to simply get the voters to see him. He should have gone of MSNBC if he had to. But he didn’t. Even so, he came pretty close to winning the popular vote. In 2016, we need a strong candidate who can answer the tough questions on TV and look good in the eyes of the people. That’s why I’m hoping for Scott Walker/Marco Rubio. And don’t even think of mentioning Chris Christie. He played some nasty politics at the end of the campaign with Hurricane Sandy.

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  • Hear hear!

    So few people, even conservatives these days seem to understand this!

    As you mentioned, the Federal government has some specific duties, and everything else is the state’s job to take care of. Imagine a nation where each state has control of education, welfare, healthcare, etc. I’m not saying the state RUNS all of these, but that they regulate it themselves, instead of the federal government.

    Take education. Decentralize it. Don’t let Washington DC determine what your child needs to know when they’re 12. Let the state determine it’s methods for ensuring districts are doing well, and let the district figure out what they need to do to get there. I’m personally a proponent of doing away with public schools, creating a “fund” that residents 6-18 get to use to go wherever they like – charter, private, etc. They get a voucher that goes to the school, so good schools get more students so the teachers make more. Makes sense? Not to the federal government.

  • Great post on the virtues of federalism. You are absolutely right that the place to start is the local level. One of the greatest threats that is undermining federalism in the West is excessive federal land ownership. It is hard for Idaho, Utah, Arizona, etc. to assert their sovereignty when anywhere from 50-67% of the land is owned by the federal government. You will probably enjoy the inaugural post of my website:

    This is a relatively new site, and we are trying to build its page rank. If you could link to it in your blogroll I would greatly appreciate it. I have already returned the favor.